As expected, Computer Associates ( CA) shareholders on Wednesday re-elected the software maker's slate of candidates for its board of directors. But the margin by which they won was far lower than in past elections, a possible sign of investor discontent over an agreement between Computer Associates and Texas billionaire Sam Wyly. In a press release Wednesday, Computer Associates said all 11 directors standing for election received at least 84% of the votes. Ram Kumar, director of research at Institutional Shareholders Services, said a 16% vote against the directors, however, is a considerable margin. "Fifteen to 16% against is certainly higher than the norm for most companies and is considered a significant vote," said Kumar, who in a report to clients recommended voting against seven directors up for re-election. The reason, ISS said in its report, is because the directors supported what the firm characterized as a greenmail payment to Wyly's Ranger Governance. The firm was referring to a settlement in which Computer Associates paid Wyly $10 million in exchange for his agreement to abandon his second proxy contest against CA, to not launch another proxy battle for five years and to extend a noncompete clause for five years. ISS supported election of the other four directors. A review of past board elections at Computer Associates showed the latest results are unusual. Since 1997, the largest percentage of votes against a director was only 6.4%. That was against CA Chairman Charles Wang last year, when Wyly launched his first proxy battle against CA with a slate of four dissident candidates. But as Kumar pointed out, controversy has swirled around Computer Associates in recent years, including a pending investigation by the Securities and Exchange Commission and U.S. attorney's office into its accounting practices. The controversy also has centered on a change in the way the company recognizes revenue and stock payments to three company executives in 1998. Even so, excluding the Wang vote last year, the largest percentage of votes against a director in five years was 4.5% against Willem F.P. deVogel in 1999, according to the company's 10-Q filings. Before the stock compensation controversy, in 1997, votes against directors up for election accounted for a minuscule 0.2% of ballots cast. Computer Associates spokeswoman Denise DesChenes declined to speculate on the results of Wednesday's election. More detailed results will not be available for at least two weeks. Kumar said ISS certainly had no expectation that the four directors it opposed would not be elected, given that no other candidates were running against them. "It's about sending a message to the board and independent directors who signed off on the $10 million," Kumar said. "Our indication was the company took it the recommendation seriously and I suspect a lot of our clients did," Kumar said. The election brings to eight the total number of independent directors on the Computer Associates board.